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Uganda quiet but tense after Museveni's win

Ole Tangen JrFebruary 20, 2016

In power for 30 years, Yoweri Museveni has been declared the winner of the presidential vote in Uganda. DW’s Ole Tangen Jr reports that the capital, Kampala, an opposition stronghold, remains quiet but tense.

Ugandan Wahlen
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Curtis

Shortly after 4 p.m. local time (1300 UTC) in Kampala on Saturday, Badru Kiggundu, the chairman of Uganda's Electoral Commission (EC), declared President Yoweri Museveni, already in power for 30 years, the winner of Thursday's poll - giving him an additional five-year term.

According to the EC, Museveni won 60.8 percent of the vote and his main challenger, Kizza Besigye, got 35.4 percent.

Thursday's election saw several delays in the delivery of election materials, especially in Kampala. In addition, around five percent of the votes cast were declared invalid. The EC is yet to release the final tally of votes with regard to the exact number per polling station and district - something activists and opposition candidates have been demanding.

Besigye, of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), has rejected the results, calling the vote the "most fraudulent electoral process in Uganda."

Uganda Wahlen Polizei Kampala
Riot police block a driveway leading to the home of Kizza BesigyeImage: Reuters/J. Akena

The opposition leader remains confined at his home outside of Kampala after police raided FDC headquarters on Friday and arrested party officials. This was his third arrest in the four days preceding the election. "I call upon all Ugandans and the international community to reject and condemn the fraud that has been committed and to expose it to the fullest extent possible," Mugisha Muntu, the FDC president, said in a statement.

International reaction

Observers from the European Union and African Union have offered their initial analysis of the election. Both bodies stated that the polls lacked the transparency and independence necessary for a true democratic election.

Eduard Kukan, chief observer for the EU mission, told reporters in Kampala that the police actions during the run-up to the elections had created a tense atmosphere.

Uganda Wahlen Eduard Kukan EU Wahlbeobachter Kampala
Eduard Kukan, the head of the European Union's observer mission in UgandaImage: Reuters/J. Akena

"State actors created an intimidating atmosphere for both voters and candidates," Kukan said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the security situation with Museveni by phone on election day "to underscore that Uganda's progress depends on adherence to democratic principles in the ongoing election process," according to the State Department.

Uganda has been a strong ally of the US in the region in recent years. Ugandan troop are on the ground in Somalia fighting Al Shabab militants. The country also receives around $750 million dollars (670 million euros) in aid from the US every year.

Ugandans react

Saturday's announcement was met with shrugs in Kampala. Many Ugandans had predicted the result but still turned up to vote in large numbers, feeling that it was their civic duty to vote.

"People have lost trust in the system and the government," said James Odeka, a waiter. "I am just a villager, and we fear that the government will raise taxes and make life harder for us Ugandans."

Ugandan Wahlen
Police guard ballot boxes at a counting center in KampalaImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Curtis

The government had instituted a social media blackout during the election. It is reported that over one million Ugandans downloaded virtual private networks (VPNs), apps and other tools to bypass the blackout.

The hashtag #UgandaDecides trended worldwide all week as users tracked the situation.

@dwnews - How Ugandans reacted to the social media ban on election day

Soon after the results were released on Saturday, many Ugandans were discussing the somber mood in Kampala on social media. One Twitter user observed that there was little celebration in the east African country following the announcement that Museveni had won.

"The silence after the announcement of the presidential election is deafening," he wrote.